Protect The 1st affirms that communities have a right to protect children from public performances that are sexually explicit. But such laws need to be focused on extreme content and obscene behavior, or else they run the risk of outlawing legal and even innocuous content.
A new law in Tennessee would have outlawed explicit performances, limiting “adult cabaret performances” on public property to shield them from the view of children. This would have included strippers, exotic dancers, and male or female impersonators.
Such a law could, conceivably, outlaw a public performance of the original Cabaret musical, with its depictions of the goings-on in the KitKat Klub in Berlin, or Rosalind becoming a boy called Ganymede in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Could the law outlaw an outdoor movie showing of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, or Tootsie, or Mrs. Doubtfire? Jonathan Winters playing Maud Fricket? How about anything British and funny, from Benny Hill to Monty Python? And what about dancing ladies who come to town to advertise that the circus is coming?
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker clearly sees the problem of over-broadness in this law. He recently issued an order delaying the enforcement of the order for two weeks while he considers if the ban is unconstitutional.
Judge Parker wrote that “given the Defendants’ lack of a clear answer to the Statute’s purpose considering current state obscenity laws, along with the Parties’ present filings on the Statute’s legislative history, the Court finds that Plaintiff has made a likely case for subjecting the Statute to strict scrutiny here.”
We’ll keep an eye out for Judge Parker’s decision.